Holiday expectations vs. reality

This post goes out my lovely friend Beth (@livingcolourful), whose recent holiday photo spurred me on to write about holiday expectations vs. reality…


We fly to Croatia in *squeal* two days, and have been looking forward to a sunny break for months. Naturally, with this level of anticipation, a humble week away has slowly morphed into the holiday of all holidays. It has become the M&S ‘this is not just a…’ equivalent of holidays. If Carlsberg did holidays then this one, my friends, is it.

But, as with anything that gets wildly built up in anticipation, there is (of course), a serious case of expectations vs. reality waiting for us in the arrivals lounge. Cloudy skies, stomach upsets, the works.

So here they are. Classic holiday expectations vs. reality – which ones are you familiar with?

Dream: A whole new, European you – yoghurt for breakfast, fruit snacks and, who even needs dessert?
Reality: Gelato. All day, every day.

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Dream: Going travelling to who knows where with little more than a backpack and a book, because you’re going to meet new people and find yourself.
Reality: Waking to find a stranger’s feet in your face on the sleeper train.

Dream: Trying all sorts of fresh, local foods and discovering a new-found (and slightly smug) love for lobster.
Reality: Trying all sorts of fresh, local foods, and discovering a new-found love of heaving the night away in the hotel bathroom. Especially horrific if you’re away with a new partner.

Dream: Going on a lads’ holiday and expecting the bars to be filled with undiscovered Victoria’s Secret models.
Reality: Going on a lads holiday and meeting the same girls you know (and love), just in fewer clothes and clutching fish bowls.

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Dream: Night after night of romantic, carefree sex.
Night after night of sex which becomes progressively more sweaty and awkward as you work around the sunburnt patches.

Dream: Glamourous evenings out drinking cocktails.
Reality: A drink in the bar next to the hotel, before you stagger to bed having walked the length of the city in a day.

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Dream: Seven days of immaculately planned holiday outfits, complete with shoes and accessories. Instagram filters, you are not required.
Reality: The playsuit is too hot. The shoes? Woah. That’ll be seven days of wearing the same two vests, shorts and sandals on rotation, then.

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Dream: Discovering your inner Martin Lewis and haggling up a storm in local shops and markets.
Reality: Feeling pretty pleased at yourself for saving the equivalent of 20p on a donkey-shaped rattan bag, then stuffing your ‘steal’ at the back of the wardrobe for a couple of years until it’s acceptable to throw it away.

Dream: Finally, a refreshed, sunkissed complexion that does not scream ‘air conditioned office’.
Reality: Three days of melted foundation, a make-up mirror meltdown on day four, followed by a begrudging barefaced and sunglasses approach for the rest of the holiday.

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Despite the negative (but totally true) vibe of this post, it’s not meant to be. Half the joy of holidays is the expectation – switching your out of office on, buying indulgent snacks at the airport. You LOVE your meal on the third night because of the dodgy pasta dishes on nights one and two. We all need a comedy and/or shocking tale to tell when we get back. Don’t we all want a more spontaneous life? Well bring it on, frizzy hair, and unpredictable weather. Show me that tourist tat. And the food poisoning? Well I’d rather not, but any travel buddy worth their salt will never tell a soul.


Home inspiration from the Italians

We were lucky enough to spend last week in Italy, starting in Venice and then travelling into the mountains for a wedding at Chiesa del Carmine in Umbria.

It wasn’t our first visit by a long shot – we’ve had weddings there for the last three years – and each time it is just gorgeous. Despite often showing its age and needing a damn good lick of paint, it has a charm that makes me want to go back and see more. Now.

As Paul snapped away taking photos of amazing churches and cathedrals, I (as usual) took weird close-ups of slightly grotty windows, shadows and graffiti that somehow becomes more charming than it should be because you imagine some difficult-but-really-just-misunderstood Italian teenager has penned it in a moment of clarity. As beautiful and statuesque a huge old building can be, a photo doesn’t capture a place for me. I prefer to zoom in on the details – the smells, the colours, THE SNACKS. Here’s how I saw each destination – they’re all surprisingly different. Which is your favourite?


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And Umbria

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And our final night, in Bologna

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In honour of this lovely place, here are a few tips to inject traditional Italian style into your home:

  • Stick with white or cream base shades, then bring in the colour with everything else. If you’re working with the fiery red, orange and yellow palette of Bologna (above) you might not want bright orange walls but you can definitely go big on punchy accessories.
  • Imagine you’re at your long lost (and imaginary) gran’s house in Italy. If you want to go rustic, choose organic flowing patterns that feel a bit chintzy over anything blocky or geometric. Also consider using texture, rather than colour, to add the detail. For example, go for plain cream bedding that has an intricate raised pattern or lace edges.
  • Choose dark wood furniture, and buy it from antique or second hand shops. If it has little carved details or paintwork, even better. Avoid modern pieces that scream ‘I’m vintage’ but were actually made six weeks ago in Taiwan. Be authentic.
  • Build your rooms for socialising. Think late night pasta with friends and lots of drinks around a large table. That’s lots of glasses and a table that will only get better with wear and tear.
  • Think about exposing raw materials, like wooden ceiling beams or a great stone wall.
  • Choose beds, curtain rails, hooks and the likes that are made using black wrought iron.
  • Go mad with window boxes and pots, filling them with pretty red or pink flowers. Train plants to grow around windows and doors, to create the feel of an arched window or door.
  • Buy a Fiat 500 and bash it up a bit. Park it badly outside the house.

I’m matching this little product selection with my favourite house from the trip – painted a sweet pink shade that you didn’t see often, with sage green shutters:

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Lovely items from:
Floral glass, white lamp, cushion, tea pot and chair, Maisons du Monde; Soap dish, Zara Home; Artificial plant, Debenhams; Bedspread and lace edged table setting, Zara Home.